Californians with Medicare coverage would no longer be surprised by huge medical bills stemming from “observation care” in hospitals under legislation that state lawmakers approved overwhelmingly last week and sent to Gov. Jerry Brown to sign into law.
The sticker-shock can happen when people go to the hospital but health care providers are not sure what’s wrong. If the patient is not sick enough to be formally admitted, but still not healthy enough to go home, they can stay in the hospital for “observation care,” which Medicare considers an outpatient service. That can mean higher out-of-pocket expenses for the patient.
Hospitals can bill observation patients for a larger share of the cost of any treatment and tests than admitted patients. Any routine medications they usually take at home may not be covered at all in the hospital. In some parts of the country, Medicare observation patients have been charged exorbitant prices for prescription drugs, including $18 for one baby aspirin.
And because observation patients have not spent the required minimum of three straight days as an admitted patient, Medicare will not cover their follow-up nursing home expenses after discharge. Observation care doesn’t count.
But patients may not even know they have been placed on observation care status when they’re lying in a hospital bed.
Seventy-two percent of California’s previously uninsured gained coverage since the Affordable Care Act went into effect.
The majority of the recently insured say their experience with their current Covered California plan has been positive.
Nearly half of the remaining uninsured are unaware of the financial help available only through Covered California.
The survey found that recently insured consumers are getting access to quality care:
June is National Employee Wellbeing Month – an opportunity for companies nationwide to implement, evaluate and refine their employee wellness programs. An estimated 70% of employers already offer wellness programs, and 8% more plan to do so during the next year, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.
Employers are investing in wellness programs because these initiatives can support their employees’ desire to improve their health and create a happier, healthier workforce while reducing costs for employees and the company.
Some of these wellness programs give employees wearable devices at no additional charge, helping provide a more accurate and comprehensive summary of the user’s daily activity, sleep patterns and other health markers. Fitness trackers – usually small devices worn around the wrist or clipped onto clothing – give users a snapshot of actual physical activity.
Employers nationwide are expected to incorporate more than 13 million fitness tracking devices into their wellness programs by 2018, according to technology consultancy Endeavors Partners. That’s important, considering a study published in Science & Medicine showed people tend to overestimate how much exercise they get each week by more than 50 minutes, and they underestimate sedentary time by more than two hours. People who use wearable devices are better able to monitor and hold themselves accountable for their physical activity.